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French Geography Before and After the Revolution - Provinces and Departments

Cousinades - Genealogy Family Reunions the French Way



The era of the huge family wedding in June, lasting four or five days, being one long, languid feast at the big table out of doors as in an Eric Rohmer film are pretty much gone. Not only has life become more speedy and families more dispersed, but fewer people in France are marrying anyway, many opting for the handy PACS arrangement (the pacte civile de solidarité that was a new form of civil union intended to be for same-sex couples but which has stunned the statisticians by being embraced by all types of couples with rip-roaring enthusiasm.) 

Yet the tribal need for the occasional pow-wow seems to remain, and for some the need is satisfied by the genealogy family reunion. There are a number of websites on the subject, and e-how.com has a handy 16-step explanation of how to throw such a family reunion.

It is becoming pretty popular here in France as well, and is called a cousinade, perhaps inspired by the exquisite film of the 1970s, Cousin, Cousine, or perhaps wanting to give it a sort of home-cooked feel, as in pimentade, olivade or limonade. (The French comic, Florence Foresti, in her Brigitte character joked in her skit on genealogy that, having but one cousin, Pierre, they held a Pierrade.) 

A few years ago, Jacqueline Missoffe published a little how-to book, Organiser une cousinade, which covers the basic points of organisation not much differently from the e-how article. Christian Ferru runs a small cousinade planner -- conseiller sur les cousinades --  business from his family genealogy website. There are many who do the same but we rather think he takes the cake having planned one for 2500 cousins. 

In a recent issue of Généalogie Magazine, the publisher, Francis Christian, contributed an article on the subject, and we find his point of view to be revelatory. One would expect some differences between cultures, e.g. the e-how article devotes the first four steps to organising the reunion committee while one of Mr. Ferru's competitors devotes five of his twelve steps to the pleasurable aspects of the event: food, lodging, games, souvenirs.

Mr. Christian, however, is concerned with such finer points as that the organiser must take into consideration the class differences of the cousins. He advises also that one cannot simply invite one's favourite relatives. One must have true genealogical criteria and one absolutely must invite all who qualify. Additionally, one may NOT invite:

  • mixed groups of paternal and maternal cousins, even if they are friends with one another
  • friends of the children, even best friends

He recommends the cousinade not be held during the winter, for there are fewer outdoor activities possible. Nor should it be in the summer, as everyone is away on holiday. He proposes May, June and September as the best months for the event. We like that he suggests a visit to the village where the family originated, and his astute direction that the mayor of the village must be warned before the multitudinous family swarms into town. He has a deft budgetary rule of thumb: thirty euros per adult and fifteen euros per child, and a safety measure: make sure there is a doctor in the house.

Like Mr. Ferru, Mr. Christian discusses selling souvenirs that might help defray some of the costs:

  • a biography of a notable ancestor
  • a history of a familial manse, cottage, farm, etc.
  • portraits of all the family
  • the ubiquitous T-shirts, key-chains and stickers

Everyone agrees that the event is to be followed up with a commemorative book or newsletter about it. 

Increasingly, notices of upcoming cousinades are appearing in the backs of genealogy magazines and so, dear readers, you may find your cousins en masse and break your French genealogy walls that way.


©2011 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy